Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 5/14/12

On Sunday afternoon, the Memphis Grizzlies season came to an end with a 82-72 loss in game seven of the Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers.  The Grizzlies played poorly in the fourth quarters of every game during this series, except for game six, and once again the Grizzlies were outplayed during the final period.  The Grizzlies had all the momentum and home-court advantage going into game seven, but couldn't grind out a win.

Memphis has blown two double-digit fourth quarter leads during this series.  The most mind boggling thing about the Grizzlies being so inept offensively in the fourth quarters is the fact that they were second in the league in offensive efficiency with under two minutes left and a one possession game.  There was not a double-digit lead during game seven's fourth quarter, but the Grizzlies were drastically worse in the last 12 minutes of the game.  In the fourth quarter of game seven the Grizz shot 4-18.  FOUR OF EIGHTEEN!  On this day the Grizzlies just didn't have "it,"  they were out-hustled, out-worked, out-hearted; as referenced by the the Clippers winning almost every 50/50 ball.

The theme of this series had been the Clippers flopping and duping the officials into bad calls, but in game seven that wasn't the case.  The Clippers flat-out won that game.  Neither team was exactly burning down the nets, but whenever the Grizzlies started to make a little run, the Clips would hit a shot and reel the game back in.  By contrast, the Grizzlies blew every chance they had at chipping away at the Clippers fourth quarter lead.  With two minutes left Marc Gasol got Reggie Evans in the air and drove to the basket, but on his way he was stripped by Chris Paul.  Paul was fouled after making the steal, then O.J. Mayo stole the ball from Paul at half-court, and drove the length of the court but missed the layup.  On the next offensive possession Zach Randolph missed a 5-foot baby hook attempt.  In the span of one minute the Grizzlies had three opportunities to cut into the Clippers lead, but didn't score once.  In this span the Clippers also missed all of their shots, so the Grizz could have cut a six-point lead to a tie ballgame with one minute left.  But today the Grizzlies just didn't have "it."

Memphis had been the tough-minded team that gritted and grinded their way through the season, but on this day the grit and grind came from Los Angeles.

Outside of the three-play sequence with two minutes left, there isn't too much that stands out with the play of either team in game seven.  The Clippers got half of their scoring and rebounding from the bench, and only shot 38.5 percent from the field.  The Grizzlies only had two players in double figures, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol, and shot 32.5 percent as a team.  It was an ugly game with an ugly ending.  For most of the game it seemed as if we would at least get a close game in the end, but after the Grizz blew three straight easy scoring chances, it killed all the suspense.

Some have already come out an asked about head coach Lionel Hollins future with the team, which I for one, think is stupid.  Hollins may have had some sketchy looking rotations in the season finale, but if it wasn't for his awkward rotations then Hamed Haddadi would have never came into the game during game six when the Grizz wiped out an eight-point lead, and there wouldn't had even been a game seven for Hollins to screw up.  Hollins has coached this whole season by feel.  He ignores advanced statistics and goes with his gut.  The problem with going with your gut though, is sometimes it can be wrong.  Same can be said for advanced statistics, as far as I know there isn't a stat that says your team will win 100 percent of the time if you do (fill in the blank.)  It's like being at a blackjack table, you hit 16 every time or you stay on 16 every time, you can't do both.  If you do both you can win more, but you also increase the amount of times you can lose.  If Hollins would've played both sides of the fence then he would have busted out of this series a few games earlier.  Hollins went with the flow of the game all season, and on this day there was no flow from any of the bench players, so he tried every possible lineup he could have, but it just didn't work.

Hollins is also catching flack for Gasol and Zach Randolph not being involved in the fourth quarter.  Well, to that I say, get open.  Those two were gassed.  They had nothing left in the tank.  No one for the Grizzlies could hit an outside shot, they only made seven shots outside the paint, so the Clippers would front the post or sag down in their laps, and the Grizzlies had no other choice.  It's easy to sit back and say that the Grizzlies didn't try to get the ball in the post, but if you watched the game, Gasol nor Randolph could get free anywhere below the elbow.  When you don't knock down jumpers then you can't run plays in the post.  It's that simple.  The Grizzlies picked the wrong day to have their second-worst shooting display of the season.  The only game were the Grizzlies shot worse they lost by 40 points to the Bulls.  That just goes to show you how bad of a game this was that the final score was only a ten point differential.

Another damaging factor for the Grizzlies on this day was Mike Conley.  Mike had played above his norm this whole series, he was probably the teams MVP during the first five games, but he was terrible in game seven.  He had his least amount of points and assists (7 points 5 assists) in game seven, and also shot his the lowest percentage from the field (2-13) of any game in the series.  After the game it came out that Conley was battling flu-like symptoms, but no excuses will work when it comes to an elimination game, you have to be out there, and you have to be effective if you want to advance.

All in all this was a successful season for the Grizz.  They dealt with the loss of Randolph for two-thirds of the year, they dealt with not having Darrell Arthur all year, they dealt with not having a backup point guard all year, but it all caught up with them in the end. 

The Grizzlies will go into the off-season with the contracts of O.J. Mayo, Marresse Speights, Darrell Arthur, and Hamed Haddadi all expiring.  The Grizzlies will be roughly $6 million short of the luxury tax, so they can re-sign some of these players, but none to a big contract.  More than likely this means that the Grizzlies will lose Mayo, and they will only be able to keep one of the bigs.  But a four-seed returning all five starters, eight of their top ten players, and adding a draft pick, will have high expectations heading into next season.  Let's just hope they can fix their fourth quarter issues.

Please follow me on Twitter @rmarbury 
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